After Christina Liva had her first child she focused on providing him with the best nutrition she could. Fast-forward to his first day in school and she quickly learned of the problems in getting kids’ healthy lunches: namely, lack of time for parents and lack of resources and choice for schools. Liva, whose decade of experience in the food industry includes serving as editor for Zagat, food and travel editor of Goop and executive food editor of MindBodyGreen, set out to find a solution to these mealtime conundrums.
She and her family moved to Virginia, where two years ago she launched Yay Lunch, a company that delivers healthy lunches kids love to schools in Charlottesville, Richmond, Virginia Beach, Northern Virginia and Baltimore.
“We wanted to model Yay Lunch after the convenience of the online consumer experience and ecommerce we are all used to having in other areas of our lives”, she says. “We wanted to give parents control over what they are choosing for their kids each day, and make the online ordering a fun and seamless experience.”
Yay Lunch collaborates with local food partners to curate delicious and healthy meals; in Northern Virginia this includes Zoe’s Kitchen, Anita’s New Mexico Style Mexican, Souvlaki Bar, Fireworks and Badd Pizza. Everything on the menu is made fresh daily, is less processed with lower sugar and keeps an eye on local, organic and allergen-friendly options. Each food partner is responsible for a certain school day; everyday there is a choice of five to eight complete lunches with customizable options and extra add-ons like carrot sticks and ranch or a homemade chocolate chip cookie. The same driver–called a brand ambassador–delivers meals daily to a school; often these drivers are local moms looking to get back into the workforce. Brand ambassadors follow COVID-19 CDC guidelines including temperature checks and strict sanitation processes.
Many private schools either don’t offer lunch or have a difficult time figuring out the logistics for a successful lunch program. Yay Lunch takes all the work off their plate, so to speak, including order, billing and customer service, letting schools focus on educating rather than serving as an ad hoc restaurant or catering service. The service is free for schools; once they sign up, they work with a local market manager to determine delivery logistics for the lunches, which are individually-packaged and labeled for quick distribution.
Currently, Yay Lunch has 40 employees and delivers individually packaged lunches to 26 school partners in Virginia including St. Agnes, St. Thomas More and Providence Academy. In the fall of 2021 they will be entering the Philadelphia and Atlanta markets, with plans to expand nationally within the next five years.
Liva’s son is currently at a Yay Lunch school, bringing things full circle. “We are proud to be a safe solution for schools, and we are just so happy that we can make this complex time a bit more fun (and delicious!) for kids and parents alike.”
For more news like this, subscribe to our Health and Family newsletters.